In today’s video, I wanted to offer some in-depth advice for husbands who are angry about their wife’s past.
Read or watch below if your wife’s past makes you angry, and you can’t let go.
Zachary Stockill: I get a lot of emails and requests for content from people who are angry about their wife’s past. These are husbands who often write to me, usually very lengthy emails, talking about how there’s something in their wife’s past that makes him uncomfortable. Maybe this is something his wife lied to him about. The point is, there’s something about his wife’s past that makes him angry.
At this point, after almost ten years of coaching, I’ve worked with literally hundreds of husbands who are angry about their wives’ past. And so, in today’s free video, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts for any husband who feels angry about his wife’s past.
So I thought it was a pretty good time for me to record this video because guess what, I had a conflict with my girlfriend this morning that kind of annoyed me kind of made me a little angry. And of course, all this stuff is a good refresher for me. I use these tools. I use these perspectives in my personal life as well as working with clients, often retroactive jealousy sufferers, who are angry about their wife’s past.
So a lot of this stuff is good for letting go of anger in general…
.. whether you’re upset about anything pretty much in particular, I think these tools and these perspectives will be helpful for retroactive jealousy sufferers.
In case you didn’t know, retroactive jealousy refers to unwanted intrusive thoughts, and what I call mental movies about your partner’s past relationships and/or sexual history. The short version is it’s a nightmare. It’s complete hell. But the good news is there’s a clear time-tested path to freedom, a clear time-tested path to peace of mind, which anyone can use to get relief. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
In today’s video, I just want to really focus on how to start letting go of anger around your wife’s past.
So number one, so crucial to keep in mind. Anger only hurts you.
There’s this wonderful quote by the Buddha that I think about all the time when he talks about anger. And he says that:
Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
In other words, all this internalized angst and frustration and stress and anxiety… it’s only hurting you. And sometimes when we’re angry, we might feel extremely justified in doing so.
We feel like we’re “teaching someone a lesson.” We’re externalizing our pain onto someone else.
But that’s not the way anger works. Internalized stress, internalized anger, and internalized displeasure do nothing but cause us mental health problems, and often physical symptoms as well. So needless to say, anger does nothing but hurt us.
So it’s in our best interest, even from a purely selfish standpoint, to start working toward letting it go as soon as possible. In other words, anger only hurts you.
So what do we do about anger? When you’re feeling angry, frustrated, anxious, or totally hopeless, always bring the focus back to what is within your sphere of influence. Think, about what you have power over and what you can control, and as much as possible, disregard everything else.
Now, before the objections start, needless to say, I realize this is easier said than done. This is one of the basic precepts of stoic philosophy, which is so incredibly valuable. These ideas were valuable 2000 years ago when they were first conceptualized, and they’re equally valuable today.
Whenever we’re encountering any kind of problem in life, always bring the focus back to what we can control and as much as possible, disregard everything else.
So if you’re feeling angry about your wife’s past, or anything else, what do you have power over? What do you have control over?
You have control, believe it or not, over your thoughts, your emotional response, your perspective, and your actions in the present. That’s what you can control.
You can’t control the fact that maybe your wife deceived you once upon a time. You can’t control the fact that maybe you’ve wasted several years struggling with anger to this point. You can’t control the fact that maybe she’ll make a bad decision in the future and hurt you.
You can’t control the past, or the future. All you can control is who you are in the present.
That also means you can’t control your wife’s reaction to your anger. You can’t control your wife’s reaction to anything, you can’t control your wife. All we have power over as human beings as individuals are our own thoughts, actions, and perspectives in the present moment. So: what can we do when we have anger?
The first thing, and its clichéd advice. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Your mom was probably telling you this, you know, 20 years ago, but it’s equally valuable now. The first thing to do is take a few very deep breaths. And when I say very deep breaths, I mean slow, deliberate breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. You’ll know that the breaths are deep enough when the bottom of your belly slowly rises a little bit; it should almost feel uncomfortable like you’re stretching out your lungs a little bit more than you’re used to. And the reason it’s a little uncomfortable when you first start doing this is that most people breathe wrong.
Most people are not getting enough oxygen. Most people have built up counterproductive and often damaging breathing habits. Where their body’s in almost like a tiny little state of stress most of the time, because it’s not getting enough oxygen. And I get why: all these little petty stresses build up over the course of a day or a lifetime. And so as a result:
We’re often breathing very, very short and shallow, rather than letting our entire lungs fill up with oxygen.
So that’s the first step. Simply pause, don’t react, and don’t yell at your wife. Don’t freak out on anyone, just get yourself to a place where you can be alone. And take a few very deep breaths, even if you don’t want to; even if that idea makes you even angrier. I’m telling you, it really helps.
After that it’s time to start asking yourself: What am I afraid of? What is fear?
Because when it comes down to it when you really boil anger down, it’s primarily about fear.
Maybe you’re afraid that your wife can’t be trusted about a number of things. Maybe she’s lied about her past. But she’s also lied about multiple things throughout the marriage. Maybe you fear that you’ll never be able to get over this little problem with your wife’s past. Maybe it’s been haunting you for 5, 10, 20, or even 30 years. And you’re afraid that you’re never going to get over it, you’re afraid you’re always going to feel this way. The very good news for you is whatever you’re afraid of, there are solutions.
But the first step to conquering your fear is to identify it in as much detail as possible; to get very, very clear on exactly what it is you’re afraid of.
What is inspiring your anger? This is where journaling can be very, very helpful. Again, in a quiet place where you can be alone after you settle down a little bit after the emotions have eased a little bit, just journal about some ideas about what your fear may be. After you do that, ask yourself whether your fears are 100% rational, or partially, or maybe even entirely irrational.
For example, if you’re worried about the fact that maybe some other guy has, the upper hand on you because he was once with your wife, the odds are good that you’re the only one thinking about this incident from your wife’s past years ago that is making you angry.
And obviously, it’s probably irrational to be fearful of that. But sometimes there are true causes for concern…
Sometimes there are things that you really need to spend some time sorting out.
Another question to ask yourself, again, is whether you’re in a conversation with a coach, a therapist, a friend, or even journaling. Ask yourself who would I be without this anger?
Who would I be without this fear? And really think about what it would be like if you were able to completely let go of this and move on with your life get as vivid as possible.
How would you feel in your body? In your mind, how would you feel? What would happen to your relationship? How would your responses to your wife change? How would your day-to-day life change?
You can journal about it, you can talk to someone about it. It’s a very good idea to have this as kind of a North Star guiding you on your journey to letting this stuff go.
For example, if your wife genuinely deceived you about her past or otherwise, if she did something where forgiveness is absolutely necessary… Remember that forgiveness is ultimately about giving yourself permission to be happy. It’s not about letting other people off the hook. It’s about giving you permission to let things go and be happy and let go of anger and resentment and fear.
Forgiveness is easier said than done.
This has been an ongoing journey–learning how to forgive people–because it’s not something that came naturally to me. But my life has improved immeasurably the more I learned to forgive people who had hurt me. It’s an ongoing journey, but all I can tell you is my life gets better and better the more I’m open to the idea of forgiving people. Even when the idea of that is slightly difficult for me deep in my gut.
I’ll also emphasize, please make sure that you’re getting good nutrition and adequate sleep.
Because a lack of sleep and especially good nutrition can really mess with your whole physiology. It can mess with your brain. It can produce all kinds of stress and anxiety, and make you edgier than usual. Be sure you are eating well, not drinking too much alcohol, and getting enough sleep.
If I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, the odds that you’ll experience anger the next day go up probably by 60, or 70%.
Sleep is so crucial.
You may think: What the hell does this have to do with my wife’s past, or me being angry? I promise you that good nutrition and prioritizing sleep will make a big difference in your overall state of mind.
Finally, remember something that one of my mentors guy called Caleb Jones talks about a lot called “the 10% rule.”
The 10% rule basically stipulates that there’s going to be 10% of something that you love that isn’t your favorite thing in the world.
For example, if you love your job, if you’re one of those people that has a great business or a great job that fills you with inspiration, there’s going to be 10% of that job that you don’t really love. Maybe filing your taxes or doing the accounting or whatever.
But the point is, everyone and everything has that 10%. I do, you do. I’m sure everyone watching this video does as well. 10% that our partner may not exactly love. It’s not like a deal breaker necessarily, but it isn’t their favorite thing in the world to think about. But the point is to realize that everyone has a 10%. Your wife does. And if you break up with your wife and date someone else, there’s going to be 10% of them that isn’t your favorite thing to think about. In other words, no one is perfect. Obviously, it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason.
So you don’t love this thing about your wife’s past. But ask yourself, can you live with it?
You may not love it. But chances are good that you can eventually come to terms with it, and eventually live with it. And the question is: how do you get there? Overcoming retroactive jealousy, anger or anxiety or mental movies about your partner’s past relationships is a really big topic.
If you are interested in getting to that place where you can live with it, I strongly encourage you to sign up for my free mini-course.
I’ve got all kinds of tools available for you to get to that point where you can live with it.
Because, to this point, I’ve helped thousands of husbands all over the world make peace with their wife’s past. You can do the same thing. It just takes time, takes an open mind. It takes some effort on your part. But you can get there.
And finally, one of my big discoveries is the antidote to anger is gratitude. That’s how you overcome anger. Ultimately, it can be a difficult and sometimes challenging spiritual practice. But really, that’s the solution. The antidote to anger is gratitude.
So maybe you’re having a serious conflict with your wife that’s really making you angry, it’s really pissing you off. And you’ve got all these emotions going on. You feel your breath gets quick, and short. And you feel your arms tense up, and you’re just kind of on edge. You’re having a fight with your wife.
But guess what? You have a wife. You have a woman in your corner, you have a woman who adores you, maybe she’s been a great mother for five years or 10 years or 20 years.
Maybe she’s been faithful and loyal for your entire marriage. Maybe she supported you when you lost your parent, or I could list a million other examples.
The point is, even though this person is really pissing you off right now, you have this incredible person in your life, who brings you so much joy and so much love and so much value.
You get my point. The antidote to anger is gratitude. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s the conclusion I’ve come to over a lot of trial and error and working through my own anger about various issues over the years.